News / Health

Student Binge Drinking Linked to Brain Damage, Injuries

Peak alcohol abuse often occurs when brain is still developing

University students enjoy a few beers at a pub in Cambridge, Mass. in this file photo.
University students enjoy a few beers at a pub in Cambridge, Mass. in this file photo.

Multimedia

Audio

New studies link student binge drinking to brain damage and drunken blackouts to higher rates of injury. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 42 percent of American college students engage in what’s known as “binge” drinking.

Tim McQueeny, a doctoral student in the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati says scientists are taking notice, and for good reason.

“The peak years of alcohol use are during the years when the brain is still developing, especially 18 to 25 when substance use, such as binge drinking, is most prevalent," he says. "That’s four drinks for girls and five or more for guys.”

Effects on the brain

McQueeny and his advisor, assistant professor Krista Lisdahl Medina, are especially interested in how binge drinking affects the brain during this critical period of development.

“We looked at a very high-resolution picture of the brain, where we can actually measure what’s called cortical thickness," says Lisdahl Medina. "So this is a measure of basically how thick their brain matter is.”

They found that binge-drinking was linked to a thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain with a long list of critical functions including: decision making, controlling attention, the ability to inhibit responses, considering consequences, monitoring one's environment, acting appropriately and inhibiting impulses.

Blackouts and injuries

Another team of U.S. and Canadian scientists is also trying to measure the health consequences of student binge drinking.

Dr. Michael Fleming's team, from Chicago's Feinburg School of Medicine, monitored the occurrence of alcohol-induced blackouts and drinking-related injuries among almost 1,000 students at five universities over a two-year period.

“A blackout is a true period of amnesia, it’s a transient acute memory loss that can last from a couple hours to longer, depending on how much you drank," says Fleming. "So, we wanted to know whether that put students, in particular college students, at higher risk for injury.”

They found that it did. According to Fleming, one in four students accidentally harmed themselves while drinking. And as the number of blackouts rose, so did the rate of physical injuries.

Other studies support these findings. A national comprehensive study found that, in 2001, almost 600,000 college students were injured as a result of alcohol use.

Intervention

Some universities are stepping up efforts to combat the problem.

Amanda Long, coordinator of Campus Alcohol Programs at the University of Maryland, works to ensure students understand the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse before they even set foot on campus as freshmen.

“We start off by asking them to complete a national three-hour long educational program," says Long. "It is really just a look at alcohol, how it affects students, how it can be a detriment to their progression as a student.”

Once they’re on campus, students continue to get support. Long speaks at freshman orientation, resident advisor training and at events designed to engage high-risk student groups, such as athletic clubs, fraternities and sororities.

At some schools around the country, students are now required to access online alcohol intervention resources such as eCHECKUP TO GO, a service administered by San Diego State University in California.

“The program gives the student a personalized feedback about their use of alcohol," says project director Doug Van Sickle, "and how it affects goals and aspirations that are important to them, career and life, relationships, self-esteem, health and fitness, those kinds of things.“

According to Van Sickle, the program doesn’t try to scare students with grim statistics about alcohol-induced brain damage or student deaths.

Instead, the idea is to give students numbers they can understand, like how many calories they consume and how much money they spend during a night out drinking.

International universities are also taking note. According to San Diego State University, the eCHECKUP TO GO online program is now being used on 500 college campuses worldwide.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs